Alpha-Lipoic Acid – Latest Research Included

Full Disclosure

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a naturally occurring fatty acid. Your body creates its own ALA, but it can also be found in certain foods as supplements. ALA supplements could bring health benefits, such as aiding in weight loss and regulating blood sugar levels, but further research must be conducted to prove their use.

This article reviews possible ALA applications and discusses potential interactions and side effects.

What Are the Benefits of Alpha-Lipoic Acid?

Supplementation should be tailored and evaluated by a health doctor. Its purpose is not to treat, cure, or prevent illness.

The most significant benefit of alpha-lipoic acids in our bodies is that they turn blood sugar (glucose) into energy by using oxygen. This procedure is known as aerobic metabolism. ALA can also be an antioxidant. This means it neutralizes harmful substances called free radicals, which harm cells on the genetic level.

Many integrative health professionals believe that ALA can help prevent or treat many health conditions, which include:

  • The liver is a significant organ of the body.
  • HIV
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Bipolar disorder
  • High blood pressure
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Erectile dysfunction

There isn't much evidence to back any of these claims.

The majority of research on ALA has focused on treating diabetes and weight loss. These are just a few of the possible uses for ALA.

What are the signs of an alpha-lipoic acid deficiency?

True deficiency of lipoic acid is uncommon and results from a genetic flaw that causes particular symptoms early in the course of life, like seizures and severe motor delay.

Weight Loss

Various diet experts and supplement companies overstated ALA's ability to boost calorie burning and aid in weight loss. Furthermore, most of the research into supplementing ALA to lose weight is in the beginning and doesn't give definitive conclusions.

A 2017 Yale University review found that ALA supplements, which range in dosages from 300 milligrams up to 1,800 milligrams per day, helped result in an average weight reduction of 2.8 pounds compared to placebo.3 A second review of studies published in 2018 discovered that ALA led to more weight loss than placebo. However, the mean weight loss was just 1.5 pounds.

A further meta-analysis, published in 2020 showed the treatment of ALA significantly decreased body mass index, and decreased weight by 5 pounds contrasted to placebo.

Although this trio of systematic reviews presents some encouraging evidence, the research methods differed significantly between the studies, making it difficult to draw solid conclusions from them.

The research found a statistically significant difference in weight loss between the placebo and treatment groups.

Body Mass Index

The most frequently utilized measure for comparing height and weight is the measure of body mass (BMI). It is a measure that uses height and weight to determine the amount of fat in your body. The resultant number is used to classify people as overweight, average weight overweight, obese, or morbidly overweight. The BMI formula is not 100% accurate, however, and it does not consider other factors that affect body composition, such as the age of the person, muscle mass, or sexual activity. BMI calculations could, for instance, underestimate the body fat of athletes or those older.

Diabetes

ALA can help control glucose levels by speeding up blood sugar metabolism. It could also help manage diabetes, a condition characterized by high blood sugar levels.

A 2018 review of 20 controlled, randomized trials focused on ALA supplementation in people suffering from metabolic diseases, such as Type 2 Diabetes. Results revealed that ALA supplementation reduced fasting blood glucose levels, insulin and insulin resistance levels, and hemoglobin A1C levels.7 The hemoglobin A1C value is the average of your blood sugar level over the past three months.

A study published in 2019 suggested that ALA decreased A1C and fasting blood glucose levels. However, the most recent systematic review revealed that ALA supplementation decreased insulin and insulin resistance but did not lower A1C levels.

If you suffer from diabetes and are considering ALA supplementation, talk to an expert in your medical field to determine whether it's suitable for your needs.

Managing and Preventing Complications of Diabetes

Nerve Pain

The medical word describes sensations of pain, numbness, and unusual sensations resulting from nerve damage. The nerve damage is usually caused by oxidative stress that is imposed on nerves due to chronic illnesses like:

  • Diabetes
  • HIV
  • Kidney failure
  • Lyme disease
  • Shingles
  • Thyroid disease

A study published in 2021 showed that patients who suffered from pain of unknown origin had less severe pain scores when they consumed 400 milligrams to 800 milligrams of oral ALA supplement compared with those who took the placebo.

ALA can also exert antioxidant properties in those suffering from diabetic neuropathy, which is a fatal condition in patients with diabetes that is advanced.

A study review found that the antioxidant qualities of alpha-lipoic acid might aid in managing neuropathy. However, it also pointed out that clinical studies have been inconclusive regarding things like dosage and treatment procedures. Also, because ALA is frequently mixed with other substances, it's not clear how much value it offers on its own.

Heart Disease

ALA is widely believed to affect health and weight by altering the cholesterol (fat) composition of the blood. This is because it increases “good” HDL (HDL) cholesterol while decreasing “bad” cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides. But new research suggests that this might not be the case.

One study found that 180 Korean adults who received 1,200 milligrams up to 1,800 milligrams of ALA reduced 21 percent more weight than the placebo group after a period of 20 weeks. They did not notice changes in LDL, total cholesterol, HDL, or triglycerides.12 In reality, the higher the dose of ALA, the higher the increase in LDL and total cholesterol in the study participants. In a 2019 study, researchers also observed no changes in serum lipids due to ALA.

There is evidence suggesting that ALA may reduce inflammation markers, including C-reactive proteins interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (which promotes the development of insulin resistance and has been linked with obesity-induced Type 2 Diabetes). High levels of C-reactive protein are thought to be a risk factor for heart disease.

A review from 2019 revealed significant reductions in these markers due to ALA supplementation.8 Additionally, a study published in 2020 revealed that 600 milligrams of ALA administered orally for 4 months significantly reduced the number of these markers.

Primary Mitochondrial Disorders

ALA supplementation is recommended for those suffering from primary mitochondrial disorders, also known as PMDs. PMDs are rare genetic diseases that result from malfunctions in the functioning of mitochondria, which limit the body's ability to produce energy inside cells.

There is a lack of evidence that supports the usage in the treatment of ALA in this group of patients. Most evidence comes from case reports because these disorders are sporadic. Patients suffering from PMDs need to be monitored by a group of specialists who concentrate on these complicated metabolic disorders.

ALA deficiency is very uncommon. Healthy individuals can create all the ALA that the body needs.

Additional Benefits of Alpha-Lipoic Acid

Alpha-lipoic acid is being researched for benefits that go beyond it and benefits, which include:

  • Anti-aging: The results of a study showed that cream applied to the skin that contains 5% alpha-lipoic acids can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
  • Age-related memory loss: A small study discovered that a mixture of omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-lipoic acid slowed functional and cognitive decline in those suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. More studies are required to verify these findings.
  • Reduces Inflammation C-reactive Protein (CRP) is an important sign of inflammation. The presence of CRP can indicate inflammation within the body. A meta-analysis found that supplementation with alpha-lipoic acid significantly reduced CRP levels among people with elevated levels.
  • Lowering the risk for Heart Disease: A study review found that alpha-lipoic acids could reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Neuromuscular Function The study revealed that those who had treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome experienced better results when they took alpha-lipoic acid one month before and two months after surgery.

What Are the Side Effects of Alpha-Lipoic Acid?

ALA is generally regarded as safe when used orally or as a topical (cream) cream or ointment. According to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report, it's also been proven to be “safe, efficient, effective, and long-lasting” when administered intravenously.

According to the same report, there do “not seem to be any major adverse side effects that are associated with alpha-lipoic acids.” However, some individuals may suffer from some adverse effects, for example:

  • Low blood sugar
  • Nausea
  • Itchy (when applying the ALA cream or Ointment)
  • Vomiting

Because ALA can be a source of acidity, it can cause reflux. Consuming a small portion of a snack (like saltine crackers or graham crackers) in the right amount can help relieve heartburn or reflux.

Can You Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Acid Reflux?

Precautions

Supplementation with ALA for children has not been adequately investigated. So, it's not advised for children.

As with many others, ALA should not be used by women who are breastfeeding, pregnant, or breastfeeding. There isn't enough research to determine ALA's effects on these populations.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredient: Lipoic acid
  • alternative name(s): Lipoid acid, Thioctic acid, Lipoid acid
  • Recommended dosage is generally between 600 and 1200 milligrams (mg) per day.
  • Safety concerns It's safe, however it can cause a reaction with certain medications, and cause slight gastrointestinal adverse consequences.

Sources of Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Dosage

Food is always the best food source for nutrients. If you're healthy and appreciate vegetables, you might be able to obtain lots of ALA from your diet. ALA is found in:

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Red meat
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Yams

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Supplements

Always consult with your physician before using a supplement to confirm that the dosage and supplements are suitable for your specific requirements.

Do I have to take alpha-lipoic acids daily?

Although ALA is thought to be safe, there aren't any guidelines for its usage. The majority of oral supplements are available in tablet or capsule formulations with a range of 100 milligrams and up to 600 milligrams. A dose of 600 milligrams or 1,200 milligrams a day appears to be the most popular in research. The usual dosage is broken down into 3 equal dosages per day.

These numbers are only meant to provide you with an idea of a daily dose. It is not advisable to adhere to an uninformed number or follow someone who has a different dosage plan. No two individuals are alike, and another person could be facing situations that you're not aware of.

As with all nutritional supplements, ALA is best stored in a cool and dry area.

What Happens if I Take Too Much Alpha-Lipoic Acid?

Because ALA isn't an essential nutritional element, no quantity is recommended to be consumed from your diet or supplements. There is also no established maximum intake. If you consume too excessive ALA, it is possible to suffer from some of the adverse symptoms mentioned earlier, but they usually disappear once the supplement is removed.

A few studies have revealed that taking large doses of ALA can be harmful. In one case an elderly woman suffered multiple organ failures due to excessive ALA. In a different case, unintentional exposure to ALA caused a child to suffer convulsions. In the third instance, a woman aged 22 suffered from tachycardia or a quick heartbeat and altered mental state and metabolic acidosis following an accidental overdose of ALA.

Interactions

It is crucial to look over the list of ingredients and nutrition facts section to understand what ingredients and the amount of each ingredient is listed. Check the label of this supplement with your physician to discuss potential interactions with other foods, supplements, or medications.

ALA supplements can:

  • It can affect the thyroid's function and treatment. If you suffer from Thyroid disease or you are on thyroid medicines or thyroid medications, consult with a health doctor before beginning to take ALA.
  • It can interfere with the efficacy of chemotherapy treatments. Talk about any nutritional supplements with an oncologist if receiving treatment for cancer.
  • Lower blood glucose levels if you take medication to lower your glucose levels. If you suffer from diabetes, talk about with your doctor if ALA supplements are right for you with your healthcare doctor. If you take this supplement, you should closely monitor your blood sugar levels.
  • The slow clotting of blood can increase the chance of bleeding. If you are also taking blood thinners, a doctor must monitor you closely. Discuss with your healthcare provider whether ALA supplements are right for you.

Summary

Alpha-lipoic Acid is a fatty acid naturally present in every cell in our body. Its main function is to transform blood sugar (glucose) into energy via oxygen. Many people use it to treat nerve pain, diabetes, heart disease, weight loss, and primary mitochondrial disorders.

The side effects associated with using ALA are not severe and, even when they're not, appear to be a result of excessive consumption. As with other supplements, ALA can interact with other medicines. Therefore, it's essential to ensure that a doctor knows the complete health history before deciding whether you can safely take ALA.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • What are the advantages of taking alpha-lipoic acid (ALA)?
  • ALA can help manage blood sugar that is associated with diabetes as well as reduce neuropathy pain. There is not enough evidence to prove that it aids in weight loss.
  • Does ALA aid you in better sleep?
  • There isn't enough research to support the claim that ALA helps you sleep. In reality, insomnia could be a negative side effect of the medication. However, ALA may reduce pain from neuropathy. This can assist some people to sleep better.
  • Is ALA the antidote to inflammation?
  • ALA is a natural anti-inflammatory drug. But, it doesn't operate in the same manner as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. It can help reduce the inflammation in your system over time, but you'll not see any immediate changes.
  • How can I tell whether I have an ALA deficiency?
  • An ALA deficiency is almost rare. Medical journals have identified a few rare genetic variations that state the body is unable to make Lipoic Acid Synthase. It is possible that less than one million individuals are affected.
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